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Labour Laws in India

Labour laws in India, are majorly governed by the provisions of the Indian Constitution, Contract Laws, various Special Labour Laws and a plethora of State enacted laws. Thus, broadly, the labour laws in India can be categorized as under:

  1. Constitution of India;
  2. Indian Contract Act;
  3. Special Laws like the Industrial Disputes Act, Payment of Wages Act, Payment of Gratuity Act, Workmen’ Compensation Act, Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act etc.
  4. State Laws – as enacted under the State List in the Seventh Schedule under the Constitution of India.

Labour Laws and Constitution of India

The Constitution of India protects the life and liberty of an individual. In the Olga Tellis[1] case, the Supreme Court held that Right to livelihood is an integral part of Right to life and hence will be protected under Article 21. Other than this, the Constitution enlists several provisions which guarantee protection of the interests of employees and safeguards them against any kinds of discrimination in matters of public employment. Some essential provisions in the Constitution are –

  1. Article 14, i.e., right to equality,
  2. Article 16, i.e., equality of opportunity in matters of public employment,
  3. Article 19, i.e., the right to form associations and unions,
  4. Article 21, i.e., Right to Livelihood under Right to Life,
  5. Article 23 prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour,
  6. Article 24 which prohibits child labour below the age of 14 years,
  7. Article 39 (d) which ensures equal pay for equal work for both men and women.

Notable case laws protecting labour rights under the Indian Constitution are –

  • Randhir Singh v. Union of India[2]In this landmark case, the Apex Court in view of Articles 14, 16, 19 and 39 (d) observed that ‘equal pay for equal work’ is not an abstract doctrine but one of substance. The Court in the case further opined that “construing Articles 14 and 16 in the light of the Preamble and Art. 39(d), we are of the view that the principle ‘Equal pay for Equal work’ is deducible from those Articles and may be properly applied to cases of unequal scales of pay, based on no classification or irrational classification.”
  • Amita v. Union of India[3] In this case, the Supreme Court held that the expression “matters relating to employment or appointment” contained in Article 16(1) includes all matters in relation to employment both prior and subsequent to the employment which are incidental to the employment and form part of the terms and conditions of such employment.
  • Badrinath v. Govt. of T.N.[4]In this case, the Court held that the right to be considered for promotion by the Departmental Promotion Committee is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 16 provided a person is eligible and is in the zone of consideration, but the “consideration” must be “fair” and according to the established principles governing service jurisprudence.    

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To know more about Labour Law in India, read below:

Labour Law in India


[1] AIR 1986 SC 180

[2] AIR 1982 SC 879

[3] (2005) 13 SCC 721

[4] (2000)8 SCC 395

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